Lean and mean

Image courtesy of Morguefile
Date:1 March 2009 Tags:

We have a large old shed on our property that leans to one side. Can it be fixed, do you think?

Well, any building can be repaired. The question is whether it’s worth your time. Here’s what to look for to help you make the right call.

Aside from its lean, does the building also have a sagging ridge line and wavy walls? If so, tear it down. The case is closed – especially if any of that damage is due to rot, insect infestation or a completely crumbling foundation. You might be able to reclaim some of the timber after dismantling the structure, but think twice if there’s termite or beetle damage – you don’t want to transport the infestation into a new building.

On the other hand, you should be able to save the building if the lean is uniform, the walls are straight and the foundation is still sound. Here’s the tricky part: pulling the structure into shape safely – and then fastening it so it stays put. Although a small amount of lean can be corrected with steel cable and nothing more than a large turnbuckle bought at a hardware store, in most cases you’ll need a heavyduty, lever-powered winch or an electric winch.

To correct a steeply leaning building, fasten the winch’s cable on a high corner of a leaning wall and lead the cable diagonally to the low corner on the opposite side. You may have to nail a piece of timber to either one or both of the corners so that the cable has something to hold on to. Pull the building into plumb (that is, upright), then keep the tension on for a couple of days while the structure slowly settles into position. You might have to make adjustments during that period, according to my PM colleague Mike Allen, who worked on several of these straightening jobs in his early days.

Finally, complete the job by installing diagonal bracing on the wall that was pulled into plumb, and the wall parallel to it. While you’re at it, install diagonal bracing on the walls perpendicular to it. It’s only another couple of pieces of timber and a few nails. Drive a pair of nails into each stud.